AI Is Here, Like it or Not

New technology has always made workers nervous about being displaced, and those in blue collar jobs have traditionally taken the biggest hit. However, recent innovations have made it clear that white collar workers—people who work in offices—will be the next wave of workers to be supplanted by artificial intelligence.

The reaction to this reality is divided into two camps. Some who study artificial intelligence believe it will add great value to humankind by providing a utopian grab bag of life-enhancing functions, from curing diseases to fixing climate change. Others warn that AI is a potential risk to our very existence, with robots overtaking human intelligence, and consequently, our ability to control them.

But the author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order thinks both schools of thought are off base. Kai-Fu Lee, in an essay published by the Wall Street Journal, writes that AI technology can enable societies to actually better care for humans.

The reason is straightforward. Although AI is predicted to take over many tasks, from driving a car to diagnosing illnesses or providing customer service, an automaton will never possess human empathy or social skills: A robot or an algorithm is incapable of caring for an infant or the elderly, Lee says. Nor can AI think creatively or make goals.

Jobs that require repetition and no human interaction like an insurance adjuster or fast food preparer will very likely cease to exist, Lee writes. Then there’s a middle ground, where AI will assist rather than take over. Doctors may have help from AI to diagnose, for example, and bartenders may not actually pour drinks but will interact with customers. However, AI will never replace a CEO or a social worker, an attorney or a hair stylist.

Still, Lee warns that the upheavals that AI will likely trigger may create deep chasms in society, requiring leaders to devise new ways to sustain humanity.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the potential upheavals society may face as AI replaces more and more jobs?
  2. Beyond those mentioned above, which jobs will remain safe from being taken over by artificial intelligence?
  3. Which skills will help workers survive the inevitable impact of AI on the job market?





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